Gennifer Albin has been busy promoting her new book, CREWEL, the first in a dystopian series about Adelice, a teenager who has the special talent to manipulate space and time by weaving the threads of her world, Arras, which only she can see. Coincidentally, Adelice is involved in a love triangle between two boys she meets at the Coventry, but they are both off limits. In this blog post, Albin defends the oft-used YA love triangle and confides her own experience in one.
If you’ve read a teen book lately, you might have come across a love triangle. For purposes of clarification, a love triangle is when two boys and a girl or two girls and a boy or three girls or three boys are swept into a romantic entanglement. Sometimes its a triangle between different paranormal creatures, i.e. a vampire, a werewolf, and a clutz, but that’s not always a requirement. A lot of people hate love triangles, which I assume is more a product of already owning too many Team Edward or Team Peeta shirts. One can, after all, engage in too many team sports.
I happen to love the triangle. I don’t mind it one bit if its done well, and to me, doing a love triangle amounts to one thing, a sentiment that is best summed up by the inimitable Humphrey Bogart in the classic film Casablanca:
“It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
Incidentally if you’re looking for the original love triangle, you need to see Casablanca, but I digress. I’m down with the love triangle as love as it exists within a larger plot. If you give me characters that are aware they’re in a love triangle even better.
But the real reason I’m cool with love triangles is because I was in one. Yeah, it’s confession time. When I was 16 I fell madly in love, and I use the term madly because I acted frankly crazy. I don’t think all teenagers are crazy when they fall in love, but owing to my personality, which is, shall we say, a trifle dramatic, I was. Not only did I fall in love it was insta-love of the most offensive sort. Let’s call the guy Josh. We said “I love you” a month into dating and we both had held it back for weeks. It was a doomed relationship.
A few months after the epic break-up and fall-out, a new guy came into my life. Let’s call him Dan. You guessed it, a friend of my ex-boyfriend. He was going to love me the way Josh could not. I still remember how he said and how it made me cringe inwardly. It was just so.....cheesy. So yeah, when you are reading those cheesy moments in novels, remember it could happen to you. I resisted Dan. We became friends, I mooned over Josh, and then one day I realized I was stupid because Dan was right here and nice and stable and interested. So suddenly I was all Team Dan.
Looking back, despite how much I loved Dan, he was a terrible boyfriend. Just awful. It turns out Mr. Nice “I will love you the way he can’t” Guy couldn’t. Mostly because of his friends. I have some serious sympathy for Bella when she’s dealing with the pack in New Moon, just sayin’.
What followed was a few years of back and forth. I would fall into Josh’s arms only to lose him again. I’d lean on Dan for support. I’d break up with Dan and seek comfort from Josh. We even all wound up at the same college. No joke. It was like a bad CW series.
Did I mention I’m dramatic? But really, this all happened. And the whole time there were these moments of cliche dialogue between me and them. Once we ran into Dan at a club in college, and while Josh was off playing pool, Dan leaned over and said, “I know I can’t, but I want to kiss you. I wish things were different.”
Sounds like every teen book ever, right? And it happened. To me.
I suppose that’s why I can appreciate a good love triangle in a book, but what I want more than anything when I read a teen book with a love triangle is to have characters who are aware of the situation. I want relationships that challenge the protagonist. Relationships that inform her character without dictating who she is. Because love is a pretty powerful influence in our lives --- and that’s a good thing. We learn from romances, and the best of us, learn that love is just one thread to our stories, even if its interwoven into a lot of our subplots.
As for me and my love triangle, I look back at it with youthful nostalgia. And in case, you’re wondering, I’m still Team Josh.